Mad Men Marketing Myths

Mad Men is an entertaining show that displays what ad agencies were like in the 1960s, but unfortunately, the show creates some myths about what the marketing industry is like today. I’m almost done the Marketing Management program at Ryerson, and I have various marketing internship and co-op experiences under my belt, so I thought I would break down some myths about marketing that the show creates and talk about what the industry is really like!




1. Marketing is based on a gut feeling

Don Draper is the king of thinking up good slogans or ideas on the spot! These ideas are often met with praise from those he works with and his clients. A gut feeling did use to be a large part of marketing back in the 1960s when marketing was starting as a field, but today this kind of thinking doesn’t exactly cut it! Creativity when creating ads, slogans and campaigns is still very important, but creativity needs to be combined with research. Marketers must find out what their customers and the public want to hear and how they want to hear it. Today, there are companies and software that are dedicated to finding these insights. Marketing students learn all about the research and creative aspects of marketing in the Marketing Research and Understanding Consumers and the New Media courses.


2. Numbers aren’t touched on

You may never see Don Draper looking at numbers about the effectiveness of his campaigns, but data is supreme in marketing! This may include researched data trends, as mentioned above, but it also includes marketing metrics, which are measurable values that determine how a marketing campaign or strategy is working. For example, when a social media campaign is run, marketers look at the clicks, engagement, return on investment and more. This information is then utilized to see if the campaign is working and what changes may need to be made to improve the effectiveness of the campaign. Ryerson knows just how important metrics are, which is why we learn all about them in the Marketing Metrics and Analysis and Business Intelligence/Decision Modeling courses.

3. Ethics are not involved

The marketers in Mad Men at times seem more like deceivers than marketers. This is not what the industry is like as ethics is highly important in marketing, and it is something that is integrated into all of our courses. There are rules in terms of confidentiality when working with clients that marketers do not break, and there are rules in terms of the claims advertisers can make about their product or service. Today, if a company wants to make a claim on their packaging or in their advertisement, the Canada Ad Standards will hold them accountable for the claims they are making. Students who are interested in ethics have the opportunity to dive deeper by taking the Ethics and Regulation of Int’l Bus course.


4.  Marketing is largely the result of the leader

Mad Men may have you fooled that all you need for successful marketing is one guy with great ideas, but this actually isn’t true. Marketing is often a team effort, and the best campaigns are ones that are created by a team of diverse people. This is especially true today as integrated marketing campaigns utilize multiple different platforms and formats for advertising, which often requires a team of people who each specialize in their own respective area of marketing. Marketing students learn about this topics in the Innovations in Marketing course but also the Integrated Marketing Communications course, which marketing students may take as a professionally related course.


5. Marketing is only focused on mass markets

In the 1960s, marketing was all about targeting mass markets as the main forms of reaching consumers did not allow for niche marketing. This included utilizing things like billboards, television and radio. Today, we have the internet and social media, which opens up a whole new world for niche marketing. It is now possible to advertise for things like organic food and indie music concerts. Students learn about both mass and niche marketing right off the bat in the intro marketing course Principles of Marketing.


To end off, Mad Men does share some ideas about the marketing industry that are still relevant today. My favourite quote about marketing from the show is, “if you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” This quote echoes the fact that incoming marketing professionals have the power to create compelling narratives in their marketing and can change the field by constantly evolving how and what we communicate to consumers.


Featured Image: Adweek

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